Windy City Performs, a performing arts school, closes in Jefferson Park
by BRIAN NADIG
A performing arts school which operated out of a former movie theater at 4766 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Jefferson Park recently closed.
Windy City Performs’ artistic director Jerry Soria-Foust said that closing the school was a heartbreaking decision and that families who signed up for future programming are being contacted about refunds.
Windy City Performs (formerly Youth Company Chicago) opened in 2012 in a storefront at 5340 W. Lawrence Ave. but in 2015 expanded when it renovated the 105-year-old Jefferson theater building, where movies were shown through the 1920s. It also was once home to Imperial Fruit Market.
“We started the youth theater program in 2012 with $800, cultivated seven students from the area to run our first summer camps and then grew from there.
“Besides the mission itself, choosing Jefferson Park was the single most important factor in our success. Jefferson Park families were really hungry for high-quality arts programming. We felt support from the moment we opened the doors, and our growth was almost exclusively from word of mouth,” Soria-Foust said in a statement.
Several factors went into the decision to shut down the school, according to Soria-Foust.
“Last year my family adopted two little ones from foster care, and I haven’t had the time or brain space to devote my heart and soul to the company (as in the past) when I typically worked 70-80 hour weeks, seven days a week.
“In the end, we had some major misses in our projections, a couple of staffing losses that caused things to get too far downhill for me to catch up, given my circumstances. I decided it was time to get my life back in balance and celebrate all that we’ve accomplished,” Soria-Foust said.
In recent days several families have expressed through e-mails their appreciation for what Windy City Performs meant to their children, Soria-Foust said. “WCP has been a true gem for the neighborhood and the schools, and our children have truly flourished under your guidance and that of your talented staff,” one of the e-mails said.